Review: Willow

Book Description:
Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen-year- old Willow’s parents drank too much wine and asked her to drive them home. They never made it—Willow lost control of the car and her parents died in the accident. Now she has left behind her old home, friends, and school, and blocks the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when Willow meets Guy, a boy as sensitive and complicated as she is, she begins an intense, life-changing relationship that turns her world upside down.

Told in an arresting, fresh voice, Willow is an unforgettable novel about one girl’s struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy’s refusal to give up on her.

My Opinion:

I don't like whiny characters. I don't like characters that blame themselves for everything. I don't like characters that hate themselves.

If they hate themselves--well, it's just so easy for me to hate them back. If they're continually telling me as a reader that they're awful and worthless, I'm inclined to believe them. I normally don't read problem books, so maybe this is why I found the self-indulgent angst, endless wavering actions, and characters in Willow to be irritating. This book is packed with self-pity, self-hate, and a narrative told in a sobbing whine. And that is why I hurled it across the room three quarters of the way through.


I aimed. Then threw. And the pages fluttered and the spine arced beautifully. Then there was the resounding crash against the wall. Lovely sound.

To phrase it lightly, I didn't like this book.

Of course, it's understandable that Willow feels guilt, shame, and grief [insert other self-defeating emotions here] after her parents died. After all, she was the one who was driving the car. As she continually thinks, as the author continually tells us: It's. All. Her. Fault.


Her brother's financial troubles. Her being alive. Her parents dying. War. Famine. Global warming. Poverty. Locusts. THAT PUPPY THAT JUST DIED?

Willow's fault.

Everything is Willow's fault.

Her fault.

And this is how the book is structured. Willow goes to school. Just as she's..you know, not thinking about anything...Willow thinks...I'm an awful person. Can I just die? [rinse, lather, repeat. Repeat. Repeat for the next 300 pages.] I'm left gritting my teeth and saying yes, Willow, please die.

Maybe I'm just being insensitive.

But I can't stand Willow.

At all.

I know she's got problems. I know her problem is awful; being orphaned. If I knew anyone in real life with that situation, I would be sympathetic. I should be sympathetic towards to Willow. I mean, Hoban pratically hits us over the head with all her problems. Parentless. Friendless. Passionless. Everything in the world sucks for Willow. But the only thing I feel for her is frustration and annoyance.

Willow's way of dealing things is to cut herself. And I don't feel like Hoban did a great job handling this subject. I found her need to cut herself to be melodramatic and gratuitous. Sort of like how vampires feed on blood, Willow will get this burning need to see blood, and will go into the bathroom and...*gasp* cut herself. And then she bleeds.

So yes, I admit I'm being insensitive here. Cutting is a real problem; I'm not claiming that it isn't. But as it's portrayed in this book, I just found Willow's situation to be irritating. I have absolutely no sympathy for her.

And that's why the whole premise didn't work for me. Add in some awkward prose to the mix, and I just really didn't enjoy this book. Third person present tense is very hard to pull off without it coming off as self-conscious. I really just didn't like the writing style.

So I'll stop now. I always feel bad for giving negative reviews, but I'm not willing to sacrifice honesty if I have a low opinion of a book.

If you will get annoyed by characters that hate themselves, by repetitiveness, by tell-y writing, then definitely don't pick up Willow.

If you're looking for a book that details a girl dealing with self-destructive behavior, I'd pick up Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson instead. It's written beautifully, and anorexia is portrayed in such a realistic, harrowing way that I definitely felt sympathy for the main character. And it's one of my favorite books.

There are a lot of books out there that detail grief wonderfully. That manage to make their characters likable, even when we shouldn't like them. (I'm thinking of Cracked Up To Be* here). It's the opposite with Willow: I should like her but I don't.

Willow, in conclusion, was just not for me.

Harsh review, but something just really hit the wrong chord with me with this book.

I give it a 4/10.

*wonderful book, YOU MUST READ IT if you haven't.

Want more opinions on Willow? Check out these other reviews by bloggers for their thoughts:
Book Crazy Jenn: Willow
A Good Addiction: Willow


yuan said...

LAWL at the tossing book description. I've done this so many times with books I detested, so I totally share your sentiment. Out of curiousity, did you actually manage to *finish* reading all of Willow? Usually when I get to my book tossing moment I can't read on. (Hence why there are less harsh reviews on crappy books in my book blog than there could have been, lol)

Kari Olson said...

I have to admit, your review made me laugh... =) It was poignantly written, even full of hate. You made me like you, even if I shouldn't have haha. Sorry, had to throw that in there.

But really- awesome, honest review. I actually liked Willow for the most part... thought the ending needed a little more, especially with her brother... but, it was still a good read for me. Although it is hard to get into a genre that just isn't for you in the first place. =) Thanks for the laugh though.

Unknown said...

Great review - I loved your honesty - I just posted my own review of Willow, I enjoyed it but I agree with Kari, it's tough to love the "type" of book when it's just not for you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry you disliked this book so much. I really liked it. Your review made me laugh though lol.

in which a girl reads said...

@ Ah Yuan: Bahaha. I didn't finish it after throwing it across the room. I was about 3/4 of the way through, but I felt like I could still write a review on it since I have...erm...strong feelings about this book. :p

@Kari: Glad that I made you laugh! Haha. And I can see why others would like this book but it just wasn't for me :)

@Jenn: I'm going to go check the review out!

@Michelle: Haha. Thanks :D

Allison said...

Hahaha excellent review! I haven't picked up this book, and I'm a bit hesitant to do so because your review isn't the first I've read like this.

yuan said...


omg you lasted 3/4 into the novel. I applaud your stamina. <- is known to throw books by the 1st quarter if I really hate it. Most I ever lasted was halfway
lawl so um, I never feel like I could review this books (if we can call them books *is bricked*) because I just never read far enough into them. I think this makes you a better person than I, lawl.

IanIan said...

I don't like people who hate themselves, either, so I'll skip this one. Thanks for the one of the most honest review I've read :D But I still feel a little pity, for this cover is SOOOOO beautiful :D

And I love the part when you said that you "aimed and threw", haha <3 Was this a hardcover ? Must have been quite a sound, LOL.

in which a girl reads said...

@Allison: Hahaha. Hmm, I wonder what other negative reviews have been saying. I've mostly only seen positive ones so far.

@Ah Yuan: LAWL no I'm NOT a better person. You are much more efficient. Pfft, who cares about stamina? I waste a lot of time reading books I don't like, which is something I need to work on. I'm actually pretty proud about throwing the book,funnily enough. I'd rate it as one of my crowning moments of glory as a reader. A couple of months ago I might've read the whole thing :/

@Ian: Thanks! And I agree, <3 the cover.And yes, it was hardcover. And it made a nice crashing sound and I was afraid I'd dented my wall but I hadn't so everything was okay. :p

Emilia Plater said...

I.Love.You.And.Am.Emailing.You.Now LOL!

Kirthi said...

A 4 out of 10? Man, this doesn't sound like such a good read!

Unknown said...

Your review reminded me of this line from Simone de Beauvoir's book of short stories The Woman Destroyed:

“Tragedies are all right for a while: you are concerned, you are curious, you feel good. And then it gets repetitive, it doesn’t advance, it grows dreadfully boring.”

Sandy said...

So I loved how you described the way you threw the book and it just THWACKED against the wall, LOL.

This may be the first negative review I've read for this book but hot damn! It's so well-written. :D

Post a Comment